Editor's Note

It's not if we should grow, but how we should grow
By Tom Bryan | December 15, 2006
The biodiesel industry has a steady wind at its back right now. Business is booming, and despite calls for managed growth, few U.S. producers or project developers are showing any signs of easing up.

That's the way it should be. Or rather, that's the way it should be if-and this is an important if-the U.S. biodiesel industry is as aggressive about fuel quality and market development as it is about bringing more capacity on line. At any rate, slowing down is usually a shortsighted strategy. On the heels of what has been, hands down, the biodiesel industry's biggest year of expansion ever, some say the growth is simply too much, too soon. However, it could be argued that opportunities like the one facing the biodiesel industry at the present moment don't come along twice. Yes, the biodiesel industry should seek to establish some semblance of controlled growth, but we should not let the current burst of new plant construction lead us to think an industry slowdown is imperative.

On that note, allow me to go off on a small tangent and share with you the vision of the 25x'25 Alliance, which has begun circulating a preliminary draft of its ambitious renewable energy plan in early December. Specifically, the plan outlines steps needed to put America on a path to producing 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources like solar, wind and biofuels by 2025. The February issue of Biodiesel Magazine will include a feature article on the 25x'25 Alliance, so I won't go into great depth about the details other than to explain why I think the biodiesel industry should support the plan.

First, the plan calls for up to 85 billion gallons of biofuels production per year in the United States by the year 2025. Yes, most of that volume would be made up of cellulosic ethanol, but it would also allow for dramatic increases in biodiesel production and use-well over a billion gallons, in fact. The plan calls for the creation of a "new generation" of biofuels plants, renewable heat and electricity for commercial, residential (think Bioheat) and stationary applications, greater community ownership of production and strengthened federal support for research, development, deployment and demonstration of novel production technologies (think algae-to-biodiesel, etc.).

The 25x'25 goal includes the establishment of a new Bioenergy Feedstock Security Program that would provide incentives for farmers to grow energy crops (think camelina and hemp) for future biofuels facilities. It also calls for the development of improved renewable energy distribution systems in the United States-from pipelines to pumps-something the growing biodiesel industry needs. It also calls for increased consumer education and methods that would simplify consumer decisions (think along the lines of standardized biodiesel blends).

In terms of near-term growth and the creation of "substantial markets" for biofuels, the 25x'25 Alliance recommends that the federal renewable fuels standard be raised from 7.5 billion gallons by 2012 to 15 billion gallons by 2015. Again, ethanol may take the lion's share of this volume, but let's not discount what such a policy change could do for biodiesel. I'm just touching the surface of what the 25x'25 plan offers, but I would encourage you to go to the group's Web site-www.25x25.org-and read our feature article on the initiative in the February issue of Biodiesel Magazine.

Until then, happy New Year.
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